Report by Seth Kirby
Race Date: Sunday March 19th, 2023
Spen 20 was canned last weekend (a rant for another time!), but this turned out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise as I felt pretty horrible that weekend. So I went on the look-out for another 20 mile race – I had not officially run a 20 mile race before and there are plenty around during this season… Knighton 20 had been run by a few Striders in the past and this race was close to home. After a brief look at the route and elevation (half the ascent of Spen 20!) and the decision was made – I booked my place. Doing this race also worked in my favour as I was able to see my mum the night before and then hand over her Mother’s Day gifts and be on my way.
Knighton is about 10 miles from Stafford and as I don’t drive this was not the easiest place to get to. After the race, I left Stafford by train (I’m still sitting on the train as I write this – another story for later on in the report…). Going back to travelling to Knighton, I just about managed to find Knighton (described as a hamlet – a village or town without a church) and headed to the race venue, Knighton Sports and Social Club.
The time was around 9.30 when I arrived at the race HQ and the race started at 10.30, which I was glad about as I detest early morning starts. I was able to change into my marathon shorts and retro Striders vest – this was nearly a big mistake for my nipples! I will talk about this later in the report. Inside the social club was a rather upbeat and friendly atmosphere with runners from Stafford, Stoke and other local running clubs all turning out. I picked up my number and sorted out my gels – my gel intake is an area I have worked on (more about this later…). The weather outside was pretty warm and rain was not expected, but there was a chance of showers. I began my warm-up and unintentionally did a loop of the last mile of each lap. This was a (just over) 6 mile lap course of 3 laps as there was a relay event going ahead alongside the main race.
Before the race started I bumped into one of the Maltby runners I met at the Kimmy Kanter last year – a nice chap and we shared experiences of recent races and chatted about the upcoming Sheffield Half Marathon (after mile 1 I never saw him again!). I also spoke with the Yorkshire running influencers, the Two Running Brooms. Dawn was planning on using this race for her marathon training and John was going to be filming the race on his GoPro in the other direction. Before we got started, the race director delivered his pre-race briefing. This basically went: when you need to dispose of your water and gels wait until you reach a marshal point. He lined us up and we were off… The first mile was practically downhill, and people were already getting giddy. I had glanced at the elevation and when the hills would be, but I wasn’t too phased as I tend to not mind a lumpy course. I joked with the Maltby runner next to me about the showers that had started to fall, but this was actually quite refreshing! More rain during the race might have caused my vest to rub though… The course was fairly flat until you came to miles 4 and 5 and I took the first loop reasonably steady and tried not to get carried away.
At mile 5, I had a short conversation with a South Cheshire Harrier who was training for the Boston Marathon (the other one!) and Lakeland 100. He said he was feeling tired as he ran in The Roaches the day before and said he didn’t like the road running much. This race was his training for a Good for Age marathon time. I hope to run around that area in the future when I want to go further on the fells! The windy country lanes went by fairly rapidly and I had now reached mile 6 which housed the drinks station and relay changeover point. No concerns at this stage other than attempting to follow my gel and hydration strategy meticulously. This has improved in recent times and my marathon shorts really helped this throughout the race (other than not being able to open the zip for a brief moment at mile 16…).
I was still feeling good and staying consistent on the hills. A few more miles passed by and at around mile 11 I started to pass a few of the relay runners and other runners who had started before the official race start time. On the race information, the website states if you are a steadier runner you can start early – due to the time limit of 4 hours. Having this option available seem to be appreciated by some of the slower runners. After mile 14, I heard shouts of ‘go Sheffield’ from John Broom who was running in the opposite direction with his camera again. Towards the final part of the race, I put in more of a proper effort and managed to catch some other runners. I stuck to my pre-race plan by not going off too fast and felt good towards the end, so I ran the last 5k a bit quicker. The last mile took us back past the sports and social club to the main pitch with the finish line.
Overall, I ran a 20 mile PB (obviously!), and this was a cracking little race – the conditions were close to perfect. The only annoying aspect of the race was my squeaky shoes, which have not happened to me in the past… Also, on a non-running related note, my mum appreciated her (favourite and firstborn…) visit to drop off gifts. To return to my train journey, I had to rush back from the race to make my Dad’s 60th Birthday party in the evening. A fun-filled weekend.
The 20 mile race was won by Oliver Harradence (Royal Sutton Coldfield AC) in a time of 01:51:13 and the first lady was Lauren Cooper (Shrewsbury AC) in 02:09:05. For the relay event, this race was won by Team – HP “R” Us in 02:01:30. 338 runners completed the 20 mile race (this was close to double the number of last year’s finishers!), and 13 teams finished the relay event. I was the only Strider in attendance.
The full results can be found here.